Staff Member Spotlight: Nora Livingstone

Title
Founder and CEO

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Nora is the CEO and co-founder of Animal Experience International. She has volunteered with animals in such places as Nepal, Greece, Sierra Leone and Costa Rica. Nora holds FEMA certifications for volunteering, leadership and deployment during natural disasters, which she has put to good use rescuing animals in places like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Having spent thousands of hours in planes, trains, tuk-tuks, buses, canoes and in her dirty ol' hiking boots Nora is really good at figuring out how to make any travel adventure a great one.

What position do you hold at AEI and why do you like working there?

I am the founder of AEI! I do social media, volunteer coordination and experience management (I get to travel to the placements first and volunteer!!) I love it because I get to hear about all the great experiences people have when they travel and volunteer with animals. I also get to talk with our placement partners ever day. That means we get to share in the successes that come with organizations that put conservation and community building first. Oh, did I mention I get to travel the world and volunteer with animals? It's really a dream!

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I have volunteered in lots of wonderful places. We go on all the experiences first so I have been to all the places AEI goes! Inspiration to start volunteering came from the selfish idea of wanting to try something new.

When I first went to Thailand I had never seen an elephant in person before but the organization needed people to work hands on with them! Off I went. In Kenya our organization needs people to help with scientific monitoring of endangered giraffes. I have a humanities degree but sure, I'll be a citizen scientist! The coolest part of volunteering is if you are willing to try, you can help in amazing ways you never thought possible.

What does the future hold for AEI - any exciting new programs to share?

We JUST opened up a new project in Sri Lanka. It is turtle conservation on probably the most beautiful beach I have ever been on with hands on work with some of the most endangered species in the world. You live in the community and are hands and feet to some amazing conservationists and community builders. And the coolest part? Afternoon tea with fresh bread every day!

How does your organization differ from other ones in the industry?

I am so proud to talk about being a Benefit Corporation. This means we have a third party certifying non profit that looks through all our impacts and makes sure they are good for the environment and the communities we work in.

It's no longer enough to just think the places we volunteer at are good for humanity and the environment. I love that volunteers don't have to take our word for it, they can check and make sure our programs are economically sustainable, conservation oriented and empowering to all stakeholders. Being a B Corp means people KNOW their impact will be a great one.

What is one thing you would tell any future volunteer?

You don't need any special skill, education or knowledge to make a difference. If you have passion, you have everything you need to change your world.

How do you think AEI will change over the next 10 years?

Really, I have no idea. Everything so far has been amazing and full of surprises. We listen to what people ask us for and we make it happen. Who knows what they will be asking for in the next 10 years!

In 2015 we are holding our first group expedition, I can't wait to hold more of them. We have 5 people heading to Greece to take part in Sea Turtle conservation, including me and my mum! Who knows what other crazy things will be happening in the future! It's going to be amazing to be part of it!